Carolina Panthers LB Shaq Thompson tipped to restore order in 2024

The team captain was tipped to bounce back in 2024.
Shaq Thompson
Shaq Thompson / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

There have been very few constants across the Carolina Panthers during David Tepper's disastrous ownership. It's been a revolving door of coaches, front-office figures, and playing personnel. Unsurprisingly, this dysfunction came with almost nothing to cheer between the white lines.

Dave Canales and Dan Morgan are looking to change all that. The new power couple has a long-term plan in place that requires patience from Tepper's perspective. Although he's not been known for that since buying the franchise from Jerry Richardson, some signs suggest he's willing to take a step back this time around.

For the Panthers to achieve their short and long-term objectives, they need everyone pulling in the same direction. Leaders in the locker room will be counted upon more than ever. Shaq Thompson is the undisputed alpha in that regard, so his influence on and off the field will be critical if Canales wants to hit the ground running in 2024.

Carolina Panthers LB Shaq Thompson tipped to bounce back in 2024

Thompson is one of two remaining players from Carolina's memorable run to the Super Bowl in 2015. He's highly respected and always puts the team first. That said, this could be his swansong with the organization if performances aren't up to the required standard.

The former first-round pick endured some rough luck last season when a serious injury ended his campaign after just two games. Thompson's worked hard to get back and should play a leading role in Ejiro Evero's creative 3-4 base defense. He was also named Carolina's most likely bounce-back candidate by Bradley Locker from Pro Football Focus.

"It’s a feat in and of itself that [Shaq] Thompson is still with the Panthers, but he’s more than just a Super Bowl holdover: he can play well, too. Thompson fractured his ankle in Week 2 of 2023, playing just 68 snaps after exceeding 1,000 in two of the three prior seasons. Speaking of which, Thompson has generally been good when on the field. The 30-year-old posted overall grades of 72.3 and 72.7 in 2022 and 2023, respectively, and has reached the 40-stop mark in each of the past four seasons. Carolina will need much better overall defensive production if it wants to make a jump in Dave Canales’ first year, and Thompson's return could provide a boost."

Bradley Locker, PFF

Thompson is a popular figure and has every chance to re-establish himself as a legitimate force alongside free-agent signing Josey Jewell at the defensive second level. There's a chance he loses a step, but the wily savviness acquired throughout his time in the NFL should keep complications to a minimum.

Everyone is auditioning next season, Thompson included. He's taken pay cuts for two consecutive seasons, but there's no telling what the Panthers have planned long-term with his contract set to expire in 2025.

What comes next is down to Thompson. If he avoids any further complications on the health front, performs well and maintains his exceptional leadership credentials, that's a best-case scenario. One that can help the Panthers overcome some heavy defensive losses throughout the offseason.

If the player regresses and becomes a liability, Carolina could end his long-standing association with the franchise next spring. It's a high-stakes situation, but bouncing back as Locker predicts would go a long way to securing his future.